Women with an advanced form of breast cancer may benefit more from a modified form of immunotherapy. Breast cancer, globally, is the second most diagnosed after lung cancer. One out of every ten women suffers from breast cancer. More than 50 per cent women in India suffer from breast cancer, according to a study, and the survival rate is only 60 per cent. The figures get more alarming when we dig deep. In 2018, a report on Breast Cancer Statistics recorded around 1.7 lakh newly registered breast cancer cases in India and approximately 87 thousand deaths were reported.
The numbers have only grown in the past one decade and still are increasing. The core reason for such high numbers lie in the domain of its treatment. Dr. Vibhor Mahendru, breast and endocrine surgeon says, “The reason for such high mortality rates is lack of proper and effective treatment received by the patients. Breast cancer is only treatable and not curable. If diagnosed at an early stage, the treatments will be beneficial. ”
That’s where immunotherapy has proved to be breakthrough treatment for breast cancer patients. Its effectiveness lies in its mechanism. Put simply, immunotherapy works in two ways – one by boosting your immune system to fight naturally and the other by providing it with certain tools to fight with cancer cells more efficiently.
In comparison to chemotherapy, immunotherapy is much less invasive and the success rates are around 90 per cent. And now, researchers have found a more advanced form of immunotherapy according to a study published Thursday by the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
The success of this boosted CAR-T in mice used for the study may be a potential “game changer,” researchers said. “To our knowledge, this approach offers the first way to provide curative therapy to treat advanced breast cancer using CAR-T cells, [as] previous approaches have not successfully treated advanced breast cancer,” says Dr. Jonathan S. Serody, director of the immunotherapy program at the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
However, one factor that cannot be overlooked, “immunotherapy is expensive and we have to invest more than a lakh every month.”, says Swati Shukla, a breast cancer patient, fighting since the past 5 years. However, immunotherapy has proven to be far better than the earlier use of humanised monoclonal antibodies, with lesser side effects and frequency of usage.
With advancements in the field of immunotherapy, we cannot bring down the number of breast cancer cases but the death rate can be reduced drastically. Additionally, this must be supported by intensive screening of women for breast cancer and enhanced diagnostic tools. According to a report published in The Times of India, less than 1 per cent women were screened for breast cancer in Andhra Pradesh. One can resort to immunotherapy only when the cancer is diagnosed. A combination of coherent diagnostic techniques and immunotherapy will definitely bring down the mortality rates.